Strays  (15) |Close Up Film Review

Dir. Josh Greenbaum, US 2023, 93 mins

Cast:  Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher, Randall Park, Will Forte

Review by Carol Allen

This is the story of an abandoned dog on the run with other strays.  But don’t get your hankies out for a sentimental weep.  This is a real beer and pizza comedy, delightfully scatological in that it’s full of blokey wisecracks, swearing and visual jokes about piss, poo, sex and willies!   And provided you’re not one to be shocked by same, it’s actually rather funny.   I’m told it’s the first “live animals/actors’ voices” genre film to be given an R rating in US.  Definitely not one for the kiddies. 

Our hero is little terrier Reggie (Will Ferrell).  His owner Doug (Will Forte) is a heavy drinking, drug and porn addicted sleazebag, who only adopted Reggie to impress his girlfriend and is now making every effort to get shot of him.  Reggie, with that blind loyalty dogs have to humans, adores Doug and thinks it’s all a game.   When Doug finally succeeds in abandoning his unwanted best friend in a sleazy city alleyway, Reggie’s befriended by bright eyed, streetwise, freedom loving stray Bug (Jamie Foxx), who explains that Doug’s actions are not those of a loving owner.  And the scales drop from Reggie’s eyes.

He determines to get his revenge by depriving Doug of the body part he most values and is always playing with (no prizes for guessing).   But first he has to find him.  So the now best buddies set off on a quest, along with two new gang members, the beautiful long furred Maggie (Isla Fisher), who’s been ousted from her home by a new puppy and neurotic great dane Hunter (Randall Park), a failed police recruit who is totally stressed out and insecure.

As is the tradition of such stories, the group encounters adventures along the way.  They include a real doggy trip when they accidentally devour a field of magic mushrooms, a noisy fairground where they are terrified by fireworks and an encounter with Hunter’s former fellow student at police school, Rolf, a gorgeous looking Alsatian, played by Rob Riggle with that hectoring, bullying voice cops always have in American movies.    It’s an encounter which leads the gang to imprisonment in the dog pound (shades of Lady and the Tramp) and a very funny mass escape sequence involving rather a lot of dog poo.

Perhaps when we finally get to the scene involving Reggie’s revenge on his owner, it is a little brutal and on the sadistic side but Doug is presented as so vile the film can just about get away with it. 

Considering they are playing strays living rough, the four main dog characters do look a bit on the smart and well cared for side (the American Humane Association making sure no animals were harmed in the making of this film?).   They are all delightful, gorgeous dogs in their different ways with very strong voice characterisations from the human actors, which admittedly sometimes seem a bit at odds in their coarseness with the sheer cuteness of the canines.

Cute, coarse and funny with it.   And definitely not for the easily shocked.